Plans for a new $240 million facility for historic Provident Hospital in Bronzeville have been delayed again, this time because of the coronavirus pandemic, the leader of Cook County’s hospital system said Thursday.
Progress on the eight-story building was stalled in February 2020 when the Cook County Health board of directors opted to press pause on the project until a new head of the hospital system was named following the ouster of former CEO Jay Shannon.
New CEO Israel Rocha Jr., who was officially appointed in October 2020, said Thursday the county will ask a state board for an extension on the project, 15 months after the pandemic first hit the county.
“The project needs a little bit more time,” Rocha said during a news conference at Provident to unveil a recently opened dialysis center. “We will try to minimize any delays possible and try to see where we can move forward, but as COVID has been with us for over a year now, we want to make sure that we are being responsive to the timeline.”
Rocha did not comment on the latest opening date for the new facility or on details of the extension request, although he said the predicted construction delays could be between 12 to 16 months. The previously announced target for the building’s completion was by April 2023.
An official with the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which reviews applications for hospital construction and expansion, sai the county has not applied for the extension as of Thursday but acknowledged that county officials have discussed sending an application.
Rocha pointed to the new $2 million dialysis center that opened late March as evidence the county would continue to operate the existing hospital until the new facility is finished. The center is projected to serve about 150 patients at a time — 80% of whom would have been redirected to commercial dialysis treatment places before its existence, Rocha said.
“We are still very, very committed to ensuring what we are doing here at Provident,” Rocha said.
The new hospital will sit immediately west of the current Provident Hospital and will be 22% smaller than the existing building. However, it will offer some services not now available at the hospital, including expanded services for outpatient and emergency room patients.
The project was billed as a revamp of the current building — which opened in 1891 as a hospital serving the Black community — that would draw more visitors to the South Side facility instead of having them go to the much-larger Stroger Hospital on the Near West Side.
The Cook County Health system has weathered repeated blows from the coronavirus pandemic, which led to more than 100 layoffs across the health system, including at Provident, along with consolidations and downgrades at that hospital due to COVID-19-related deficits. A coalition of unions representing health care workers within Cook County have decried those measures as unfairly punishing Black and Latino patients.